Shane Claiborne did some research asking young people in America who didn’t go to Church what four words came to mind when they heard the word Christian.
Their answers are depressing.
First on the list was homophobic, alongside bigoted, hypocritical and judgmental…
Yet although Jesus was accused of many things, he wasn’t accused of any of these, in fact the opposite it true, he was a friend of sinners, hung out with the outcasts, gravitated to the marginalized and prioritized the disenfranchised.
Somehow Jesus’ Church doesn’t feel very Jesus like.
Jesus in his most famous sermon talked about “judging not unless we want to be judged the same way”.
In one of his parables he had a smug paragon of virtue a pharisee and a tax collector (who in their culture were very much on the margins of the Jewish society), the pharisee was puffed up with his own importance and gave a boastful prayer to God whilst the tax collector new his need of God and cried out to him for mercy. Jesus asked “which went away justified?” everyone agreed it was the tax collector not the pharisee.
Jesus also spoke of “taking the plank of our eye so we can take the speck out of our brother/sisters eye”.
At the heart of being a Christian is not our righteousness, but actually our brokenness, Christianity tells us we don’t get it right all the time, we sin and need to forgiving cleansing grace of a Saviour.
Whatever our views of other peoples behavior, the cross ought to remind us that we ourselves shouldn’t be hurling the first stone.
The gospel message points us towards a God who loves us passionately, love ALL of us passionately irrespective of who are, what we have or haven’t done, our age, class, gender, sexuality, race, religion or whatever…
The Bible tells us that we are loved by God, we are loved so much that the cross of Christ says we are worth dying for.
I was asked once what I would do if a gay person came into my Church (I hate the expression my Church as its Christ’s!), but I said “I’d welcome them and make them a cup of tea” which is exactly what I’d do if a straight person came in, or a black person came in, or a Hindu or Muslim, who am I to turn my back on someone who is loved by Christ.
I long for every community to know the message of the grace and love of God that brings fullness of life and salvation through Christ.
At an interview I was at before Christmas I was asked my view of ‘LGBT’ people 3 times, and yet no one asked me about Jesus, his Cross, the Person and Role of the Holy Spirit, why are we so obsessed with one issue and yet the matters of faith that actually will effect people eternal destiny are not even mentioned?
What’s my view on the LGBT community? It is exactly the same as for every other community, I want them to know they are passionately loved by Christ who died for them.
I want anyone to be able to feel like they can walk into Church and be loved and welcomed and not rejected, as scripture says that God won’t turn away anyone who turns to him.
The good news of the cross is on offer to all, and we all stand before it was complete equality.
What is more this isn’t playing fast and loose with scripture.
This is not saying anything is or is not sinful, but rather a call for us all to have the right starting place, that we ourselves are not God, we ourselves are not perfect and need to be gracious to those around us (another parable of Jesus with the two debtors).
We may have different ideas about what is and isn’t sin, but my understanding is, to quote Billy Graham is “Its the devils job to condemn, the Spirits job to convict and my job to love”.
I’ve never refused anyone the communion elements, but interestingly I’ve struggled more giving communion to very Churchy people who written viscous letters, told lies, gossiped and slandered people and have done so without (seemingly) any effect on their conscience than with the sins people think I should be more offended by.
Somehow Victorian prudishness has hijacked much of the Church where we are obsessed with sex in an unhealthy way but completely overlook hurtful behaviors, money and other ethical issues.
If we chose to follow Jesus, then probably our view on things will change, mine are constantly changing, the lordship of Christ effects every choice and decision we make, we all have a responsibility for own discipleship as we seek to pick up the cross of Christ.
Christians need to have clear thinking about what they think about things, but even if you have a different view on something (I know people who have a massive range of views on different things) we are still called to love one another, to encourage one another, to bless one another.
I think especially when we disagree, we should show the world how to disagree differently from the world, in a way that loves people, in a way that remembers our fallen-ness and brokenness and others preciousness to God.
Graham Kendrick talked about Christian Community saying: “each others needs to prefer”. Yet sadly this is not how I see many Christian disagreements, especially around issues of sex and sexuality.
I long for the Church to be so counter cultural that rather than ripping each other apart and giving people a piece of our mind, let our love for for those who maybe we profoundly disagree with be marked by incredibly gracious sacrificial love, =giving people a piece of your heart-.
Pointing people beyond the tedium of our arguments and show the world the incredible power of Christ at work in his follows reflecting him in us and through us.
I long for the Church to look like Christ afresh.
I long for people not to think of it as a judgmental institution they want to avoid, but a place they want to run to. Knowing they will be loved and accepted no matter what; no matter how broken, bruised or burned they are.
Lets’ ask God to help us be this type of revolutionary, and show the world the beauty of Christ in our lives.